Building Histories of Williams (SPEC 037)

Site Biographies

Locating sources
Some of the Archives' sources are not yet catalogued on FRANCIS. This means that you should check both FRANCIS and the card catalog in the Archives' reading room for useful materials. The Archives' card catalog has separate sections for published works, unpublished documents (manuscripts and archival collections), photographs and prints, theses, and artifacts. Detailed inventories, research guides and indexes are also available for many of our archival and manuscript collections.

If you'd like to talk over your research topic, or if you're having difficulty locating a specific type of information, feel free to speak with the Archives' staff.

I. First steps

Card catalog -- many sites have a card in the Archives' card catalog listing basics such as construction date, cost and architect

Vertical files -- (request at the Archives desk) over the years the Archives has collected a smattering of details, articles, etc. regarding different College sites; ask if we've unraveled any mysteries regarding yours.

Building histories -- (call #: 351-359) some sites have been written about in published works; you may find titles in FRANCIS or our card catalog; you might also try searching contemporary newspaper and periodical indexes, just in case a regional or national publication decided to cover the construction of your building or the life of your architect.

II. Developing context and gathering details -- published sources.

General College histories -- (call #: 31) may include information regarding your site, the individual after whom it is named, the curriculum, etc., etc.; some of our favorites include Spring's History of Williams (1917), Rudolph's Mark Hopkins and the Log (rev. ed., 1996), and Williams 1793-1993: a pictorial history (1993), but there are many more.

College publications --

  • Williams College bulletin (call #: 25.W6) this annual not only contains a description of the curriculum but also provides overviews of College facilities (1822 - present).
  • Report of the President of Williams College together with the reports of other officers of administration (call #: 231.W6) contains the President's annual report, often mentioning special building projects, and usually the report of another member of the administration, such as the Dean of the College (1882 - 1939, sporadic since 1949).
  • Williams alumni review (call #: 62.W6 in the Archives or LH1.W5 W54 in Sawyer) contains articles and notes regarding College affairs, facilities construction, etc. (1909 - present); a separate index is available.
  • Reports of college administrators (various call numbers) these include the annual reports of the College Librarian, the Director of the Williams College Museum of Art, etc. which may describe building campaigns or renovations.
  • Reports on the state of particular disciplines (various call numbers) periodically reports are generated regarding developments and/or needs in curricular disciplines or divisions; these include Report of science at Williams College (call #: 26.R29).
Student periodicals --
  • Student newspapers (call #: 533) published since 1831, student newspapers may include news items regarding the construction, renovation or use of your building; some periodicals have been indexed, others have not; check our Undergraduate Publications Guide for more information.
  • Gulielmensian (call #: 532.G9 in the Archives or by the Circulation desk in Sawyer) in addition to providing statistics on the graduating Class, the yearbook may also include information regarding new buildings, and events which have become associated with particular sites (the Hopkins occupation, for instance).

III. Context and details -- unpublished sources

Audio-visual sources -- (request at the Archives desk)

  • Photographs : our large image collection includes interior and exterior shots, construction photographs, events/activities in/at sites, etc.; a special card file in the Archives' card catalog provides access to this collection.
  • Blueprints : the Archives' collections contain the blueprints of a number of campus buildings; check the Blueprints research guide for a listing; additional blueprints may be available in Buildings & Grounds.
  • Film footage : although rare, moving images may be available to document the construction or demolition of your site.
  • Oral histories : taped interviews may include descriptions of your site; some interviews have been transcribed, others have not.
Archival records -- (request at the Archives desk)
  • Board of Trustee minutes : these minutes of the Board's meetings often include the construction and renovation of buildings, the development of curricular offerings, etc.; they are available from 1782 to 1947; ask for the index at the Archives desk.
  • President's records : records of Williams' 20th-century presidents may contain materials pertaining to your site; ask one of the archivists to perform a special database search for you.
  • Treasurer's records : although not always easily accessed, these account books and records may contain valuable information regarding costs, furnishings, etc.
  • Building committee records : the Archives may house the records of the committee charged with developing and overseeing the construction or renovation of your building or site
Manuscripts -- (request at the Archives desk)
  • Personal papers : letters or diaries may mention the construction or demolition of a site, or describe living or studying in a particular locale; check the Undergraduate Life Manuscripts Survey for details.
  • Theses : a student thesis may include information on your site; check FRANCIS for titles.